Many people figured he would be a decent horse and have the opportunity to bring home some hardware along the way in his career, but this now four year-old colt has been the epitome of consistency and is on top of the sprinting World.
2 Year-Old Season
In his first race as a two year-old, he destroyed the field in a maiden special weight race by six lengths going 4 1/2 furlongs. His next start was another huge victory in the Lost in the Fog Stakes in which he won by eight lengths going five furlongs. However, he was humbled somewhat next time out in the Grade II Best Pal Stakes when placing third against one of the best horses in the nation, Lookin At Lucky. He only lost by two lengths but it was a good gauge on where he stood amongst the top horses. His final race as a two year-old was in the Grade I Del Mar Futurity. It was the same top three finish that we saw in the Best Pal. Lookin At Lucky took the win, Make Music For Me second and Smiling Tiger ended up in third.
After that race, trainer Jeff Bonde decided to give his young colt a few months off. His record after one season stood at 2-0-2 in 4 races.
3 Year-Old Season
The one thing the ownership group and trainer Jeff Bonde knew after a few races was this horse would be a great sprinter and not a middle or long distance runner. An opportunity to run in the triple crown races was not part of the plan.
His first race in 2010 was a six furlongs sprint in the Harry Henson Stakes. He sat off the lead but never could make a serious run and finished third again. I’m sure that is not what they expected. Something happened after that race though. Call it maturity, call it race experience, but Smiling Tiger became a champion overnight. He rattled off three Grade 1 wins over of his next four starts. He won the Grade III Lazaro Barrera Memorial Stakes at Hollywood Park against other three year-olds, then won against older horses in the Grade I Bing Crosby at Del Mar. The only hiccup was a third place finish in the Grade 1 Pat O’Brien Stakes at Del Mar against older horses. It didn’t take him long to get back into the winners circle, however. He won the Grade 1 Ancient Title Stakes next time out at at Hollywood. This gave him enough credentials and qualify for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint against the top sprinters in the World. This would be against other three year-olds but mostly older horses.
He sat off the pace this time out and let Big Drama go to the front by himself. It was not a good idea. Big Drama went out and never looked back. The three year-old chestnut colt did make a good move towards the lead but could not challenge the leader. He was only passed by one other horse, Hamazing Destiny, and finished the $2,000,000 race in third. Nothing wrong with losing to Big Drama as next time out, he broke a 30 year-old record set by Spectacular bid when he ran the six furlongs Mr. Prospector Stakes in a time of 1:08.12 at Gulfstream Park on January 15.
Smiling Tiger’s last race of 2010 was a second place finish in the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes where he lost a hard fought battle by a nose to Twirling Candy. That race was seven furlongs.
Smiling Tiger has done everything asked of him and more. His short racing career is already impressive. It spans just 11 races, but he has won 5 times including three Grade 1 Stakes and finished no worse than third in all 11 tries. His record heading into 2011 stands at 5 wins, 1 second and 5 thirds. Can he continue to be this consistent and good? Well, he gets a chance to strut his stuff this Saturday at Santa Anita in the the Grade II Palos Verde Stakes. The race is set for six furlongs (his best distance) on the main dirt track. Stay tuned!